Big Data for Smaller Businesses

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Many entrepreneurs go into business as sole proprietors or with a partner and from the get-go they are off and running with extra long workdays to get their business off the ground. Being a small business owner is fraught with juggling priorities and flexing skills by working several jobs at once. This ongoing pressure makes it easy to let initial data studies get out-of-date, and slip into reliance on guesswork and hunches to forecast and plan business strategy.

Don’t Assume

However, leaving behind the data stream of detailed information that you assembled when considering taking on this business, and trading it for your best guess when planning is a big mistake. While you may think that you know what is happening in the marketplace both with competitors and customers, making assumptions is a very bad idea.

Marketplaces and customer opinions can change rapidly and if you do not keep abreast of the trends and make forecasts from statistical data, you are wasting both money and time. Using analytics to make your judgment calls is the best practice–the only solid way to do business on a consistent basis. You may get lucky with an assumption or two, however sooner or later, you will find that your guesses were way off base and you are stuck with a lot of unnecessary inventory or you do not have enough to meet your clients’ needs.

Cost of Doing Business

If you are not using statistical analytics to determine your business decision because you think that you cannot afford to pay an analyst, you can start with free analytic services. If your business transactions primarily occur online, you can use the free statistics from Google to start out–Google Analytics. Many website operators also have their own analytics programs that come with the requested website. Other data can be assembled from accounting software such as QuickBooks. While free services may only get you started on the right path, they will provide helpful data as to where your customers are originating, what they are buying and how often they return.

Other free analytical programs can be found online that will help you survey your customers before and after they buy from you. All of the data that you gain using these methods can help you begin to put together a picture of your ideal customer.<!–more–>

Finding Your Flaws

Companies that are serious about growing their businesses know that studying the analytics of their marketing and sales information is the foundation of moving forward. Experts can consult with you to point out where your marketing planning is moving away from the facts that the analytics are telling you. Analytics can offer you valuable feedback as to why some items sell and others do not. You can also test suppositions before you put them into place fully to get the maximum value for your sales and marketing dollars.

Beating Your Competitors

In the cutthroat business world, competitors will take your business if you do not stay ahead of the game. You need to know your customers inside and out, why they have chosen your business and how you can keep them loyal. Much of customer loyalty comes from responsive customer service and providing what the customer needs in a timely manner.

If you guess that blue snowsuits are going to be the trend this year, but all of the customers are excited about the new pink snowsuits to help breast cancer survivors, you will lose immediate sales and possibly many loyal customers if you do not have the pink ones. No business can survive if those circumstances are repeated too often.

Therefore, compiling and studying your company’s analytics is a must-do activity. Your business needs to make a healthy profit to survive and keep employees working. Don’t wait until you have time, because emergencies and drains on your time will continue. Make time to begin analyzing your business today and you will reap the results going forward.

Before moving to Western MA, Dan launched his career in New York in advertising and public relations, where he worked with some of the country’s top brands. Dan also has many years’ experience in small-business and corporate marketing, finance, franchise business operations and field consulting. In 2005, Dan became the first area president of TruePresence, a national internet marketing firm specializing in web design and search engine marketing. Dan’s clients have included Johnson & Johnson, Sears, Warner-Lambert, Monsanto and Pepsi, but he prefers the individuality of his smaller business clients. Dan launched The Green Internet Group to help business owners fully leverage the digital marketing and social media by offering results driven marketing planning, consulting, training and creative services.

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